Laura-Isobel McCall, PhD
Meeting the Translational Need for Biomarkers of Chagas Disease Cure
Trypanosoma cruzi parasites cause Chagas disease, a major form of heart disease. In the United States, at least 300,000 people are infected with T. cruzi. Worldwide, over 5 million people are infected. Treating Chagas disease is difficult. Existing drugs cause serious side effects, and more than 20% of patients who take these drugs are still not successfully cured of their infection. Unfortunately, there is no current method to quickly test whether a patient was cured or not. Existing tests either require over ten years of patient follow-up or are unable to pick up all the failed treatments. This is a problem for patient treatment, and for clinical trials to evaluate new drugs for Chagas disease. Clinicians have stated that identifying new indicators (“biomarkers”) of successful treatment is a key priority for the Chagas disease research field. The goal of this proposal is to meet this clinical need by proving that small molecules can be used to determine whether a patient was successfully cured or not. Overall, this project’s results will have a major translational impact on how patients are monitored and on how clinical trials for new Chagas disease drugs are performed.
I am very grateful and honored by this support from the PhRMA Foundation. It is enabling me to perform critical work that will lead to improved clinical outcomes for Chagas disease patients. On a more personal note, this support has been essential to establish my independent research career and develop my research group.